For many Spanish foodies, no other chef deserves the title of “Chef del mar” (Chef of the Sea) more than the exceptional Angel Leon. His passion and thirst for knowledge has brought about new discoveries in the world of Spanish seafood gastronomy.
Having had a close relationship with the sea and its produce since childhood, it is no surprise that León’s cuisine is mostly inspired by the ocean. From the ingredients of his recipes to the shape of his edible creations, a reference to the underwater world is never far away.
Before becoming a chef, Leon worked as sailor, and it is his intimate knowledge of the sea that has motivated him to carry out further research on what the sea can offer his diners. Thanks to his relentless efforts, he is now enjoying wide acclaim amongst researchers, colleagues and food lovers around the globe.
A native of Andalusia, this culinary expert attended a cooking school in home town of Seville (Taberna del Alabardero Cooking School) before gaining further valuable experience working in kitchens in Andalusia (El Faro del Puerto), Catalonia (Casa Irene), Miami and Buenos Aires (Sheraton Hotels). He also worked and studied Sephardic cooking at La Casa del Temple in Toledo. In 2006, he was given the opportunity to lecture at The Culinary Institute of America in New York.
In 2007, the chef’s dream of owning his own restaurant finally came true when he opened Aponiente in Cadiz, Andalusia. The venue received its first Michelin star in 2010, a second followed in 2014 and a third in 2017. In 2016, he opened restaurant Alevante in the Hotel Meliá Sancti Petri in Cádiz. In received its first Michelin star a year later.
Angel Leon is highly regarded by locals and food tourists alike for the extraordinarily creative dishes that appear on his menu. The truth is, he is changing the very nature of seafood dining with his techniques and use of ingredients. What really separates him from the rest of the chefs is his willingness to use uncommon ingredients such as frigate tuna, horse mackerel, ling and herring.
Other interesting ingredients he uses in his dishes include fish eyes, algae or plankton, which may be suitable for the adventurous taste buds but can be quite challenging for the first-time diner. A very inventive chef, Leon also creates other food imitations with the use of fish as the main ingredients. An example of this is his dish of embutidos (sausages) featuring chorizo, fuet, lomo and butifarra all made with fish. Other out-of-this-world seafood creations that can leave his diners speechless include patatas bravas, pescaito frito, octopues pancetta, scallops bourguignonne, marine cheeses and rice with plankton.
Now something of a celebrity, chef Leon also appears in his own Spanish TV show. As well as his Michelin stars, he has received several other prestigious awards including the 2014 Best Cook at the Film & Cook Festival. He is also the brains behind Clarimax, the well-known culinary equipment that removes fat from stocks without affecting the flavor; and was the co-author of the book More than Tapas.
Words by Kristine Escarilla
(Photos: Ángel León via Twitter)